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Installing VCT Tile – Six Things They Don’t Tell You

VCT Tile Installation Tips – Six things they don’t tell you on the instructions.

Our prior post was an overview of encapsulating “cutback” adhesive which was leading toward installing a VCT tile floor. For those who don’t know, VCT stands for Vinyl composite tile.  You will see me write about “VCT tile” and I know that it is redundant, but I am going to write it that way so that the many people searching on VCT Tile can find our useful installation tips.  As mentioned in the prior post (http://www.wnyhandyman.com/encapsulating-cutback-tar-like-adhesive/) I did lay down a second coat of the “Ardex Feather Finish” and it came out nice and smooth with a simple 10″ drywall knife.

The following are not so much instructions, but a nice guide from someone who is laying down VCT for the first time.  There are many flooring options out there (Vinyl Plank Flooring) but I decided on the VCT since it is very durable and comes in many colors (Actually, my wife wanted these tiles. End of story).

  1. Prep your area.
    If you want a professional looking job, you should take the time to pull up and molding that you can reapply and then use to cover your exposed edges. Generally, I will pull up the shoe molding when installing any flooring product.  This 1/2″ to 3/4″ fudge factor can be nice.    You should also take the time to undercut your door jambs so that you can slip your tile underneath.  If you know someone who did their own vinyl or laminate floor, take a look at the areas around the door jamb.  This will tell you if they took the time (or put in the effort) to prep the area and do a good job.
  2. Work on your layout.
     
    The layout of your floor is one of the most important aspects of your project.  A bad layout is a sure sign of an amateur.  Having a full tile at one end and a 1″ piece at the other end is not the mark of a pro.  Many will suggest that you split the difference between walls. However, sometimes an obstacle can get in the way that might alter that plan. A shower pan, for example, might fall in the middle of the floor and you won’t want that item to have the 1″ sliver alongside.
    Take your time and do a dry run.  You don’t have to do the entire floor. In most cases, you can just do a cross on the floor. This will show your layout along each wall and will allow you to run up to any obstacles (see photos above).
  3. Cutting of tile (TIP)
    When cutting VCT, I found suggestions that helped.  A straight cut is simple. Score the piece, turn over and snap the tile. Piece of cake.  When cutting a curve, or an inset shape on the tile, it wasn’t as simple. Some will suggest that you heat the tile with a hair dryer or heat gun to soften the material and then cut through with your razor knife. I found this to be trouble since it burned through blades and allowed for error.  Rather than using the razor knife for these cuts, I used a jigsaw with a fine blade. This was a simple solution and worked incredibly well (No thrust on the saw, high speed, and slow through the material for best results).
  4. Clean the surface thoroughly.
    Many will vacuum up a floor and call things good.  If you prepped the area by pulling the shoe molding and then undercut your jambs, reach down and sweep your hand across the surface.  It is probably covered with some loose grit.  Take the time to do a quick sweep with a slightly damp cloth to get a clean surface.  This can make a difference in the long run.
  5. Apply adhesive with u-notch trowel.
    We are living in a funny time.  I purchased my VCT adhesive at Home Depot. Naturally I assumed that the instructions were on the tub.  Not the case. They refer you to the web site to locate the application instructions and the recommended notched trowel.  Not only that, but they don’t give the specific page. They just say “go to Henry.com”.  My grandfather would have been ticked at that!
    If you are using the same product that I did (Henry 430 Vinyl Adhesive), you can locate the complete application instructions on the following page:
    Henry 430 Installation InstructionsTo save you some time here is the recommended notch for the Henry 430 adhesive for VCT

    For extended coverage:
    U-Notch
    1/32” D x 1/16” W x 5/64” A
    250-300 sq. ft./gal.
    (28-33 sq. yd./gal.)
    For longer working time over concrete and wood:
    U-Notch
    1/16” D x 1/16” W x 3/32” A
    150-250 sq. ft./gal.
    (17-28 sq. yd./gal.)
  6. Let set for at least 90 minutes, perhaps more. (TIP)
    The set time will vary based on humidity.  The key thing to remember here is that it should be tacky to the touch and the material should not stick to your finger.  I made 2 rookie mistakes with my first VCT job.  Too little set in room 1 and too much set in room 2.In my case, I set the timer for 90 minutes and went to town when it rang.  It was 90% humidity out so the glue was not ready for the application. Because of this, it was very loose and my tile moved a LOT when standing on.  This was messy, and required quite a bit of adjustment to get a decent looking job.  It was messy since the tile would take up the adhesive  with movement and then that adhesive would squeeze up through when the next tile was placed alongside.

    In my second room, I let the adhesive set for too long.  I was not going to make the same mistake twice.  Even though the tile was nice and tacky (this adhesive is workable for many hours) it would not allow for movement once a tile was set.  Your first tile set would need to be very near perfect… sort of.  Read on>

  7. Place tile carefully and don’t apply pressure until you are certain it is in place. (TIP)
    When I placed the first tile in room 2, I naturally applied pressure to set it up.  After my loose tile experience in room 1, I was going to be sure to set it as well as I could and then make my slight adjustments.  My excessive setting time did NOT allow for this. Luckily my setup was close enough to be good.
  8. Have warm soapy water nearby for clean up. (TIP)
    If you do have some glue squeeze up through, clean up immediately with warm soapy water.
  9. Have mineral spirits nearby for the clean up that you missed. (TIP)
    If you miss some spots on the floor, you might want to sweep a slightly dirty rag over the surface to reveal any leftover adhesive. If it is not coming up with the soapy water, use a bit of mineral spirits.  You should be able to get it up with mineral spirits for at least the first 24 hours.
  10. Get over it! (TIP)
    We all make mistakes when completing a project.  They can be major or minor and you will probably treat them about the same.  This is simple human nature for most people who care about doing a good job.  You are reading this, so I know that you care about doing a good job.  I am sure you have heard this before “no one else will notice it”.  What’s done is done.  Move on to your next handyman project.
VCT Flooring Tile Project - After

Good luck with your own VCT flooring job!

Video Demonstration of VCT Tile Installation:

By WNY Handyman

WNY Handyman has been renovating property since the mid 1990's. We have done a number of renovation projects over the years and often share our experiences or renovation techniques. We have been in the business of flipping for fun and profit and provide advice based on our experiences.
Our site is geared toward the weekend warrior and the DIY'er. However, it is our experience that many "professional" contractors could use a little advice now and then.

25 replies on “Installing VCT Tile – Six Things They Don’t Tell You”

I installed a multicolored VCT floor last year and I love it! I am in the beginning stages of planning my living room floor with VCT. I hope VCT makes a big comeback in the next few years. Your adhesive advice is great; I plan to use it when I do my living room. Thanks for the article!

Thanks for the comments Ingrid. VCT is incredibly durable and inexpensive. That part sold me. The fact that my wife wanted it made it the clear (and by clear, I mean only) choice.

Shelia,

Which part are you referring to ‘working’ for ceramic? The installation of ceramic tiles is very different. There are some similarities, but not too many.

Please elaborate and we would be happy to help.

WNYHandyman.com

Great article – appreciate the insight and tips. I’ll be installing the VCT Imperial Texture tiles and using Armstrong S-700 adhesive on concrete subfloor in basement. I have not be able to find a definitive answer whether or not the tile must be rolled (with 100lb tile roller) or if it is sufficient to simply walk on the tiles. Any thoughts?

I will also be installing 6″ trim/accent color tiles. Any advice on an easy, surefire way to cut the 12″x12″ tiles EXACTLY in 1/2 ? The cut would need to be extremely precise to allow both halves of tile to be used and ensure proper allignment. I’m thinking that if my cuts are even 1/32″ off, the pattern/lines will look terrible. Any advice you can provide would be much appreciated.

Last question – Once the adhesive is allowed to “set” (90+ minutes) and ready for install, safe to assume that I will not be able to walk on adhesive (to the center of room) to begin? I’m thinking that my shoes will stick to the adhesive just like the tile will stick. Assuming this is true, I had planned on laying down adhesive on 1/2 the room (opposite entry door), allow to set, then install the first row of tiles across the width of the room. Then apply adhesive to other 1/2 of room out to door. While the adhesive sets for 90+ minutes on that 1/2 of room, I can continue tile installation on other side of room. I will be able to access the other side of the room via 1st floor window, but I may need to install first two rows of tile to provide enough working space. Would you recommend a different approach to installation?

Thank you in advance for your help!

I realize this is a silly question but I will ask anyway. I am setting vct tiles in a small area, about 40 tiles total, and a friend gave me a bucket of adhesive for the job. However, the adhesive is for ceramic tile. My friend says, “aw, it should do the trick”, but I am skeptical as I just spent 6 hours scraping old adhesive from the area I am re-tiling. I do not want to take a chance that I will have to redo this job if the adhesive he gave me doesn’t work. It’s not about spending the money for a bucket of vct adhesive. As an engineer, I want to know if ceramic tile adhesive will work.

Corey,

I have to agree that it “should” work. What I would suggest is that you test a single tile somewhere and see if the test bonds as expected.

Your application would differ since the VCT adhesive is applied thin and then needs to set a bit before applying the VCT. As I type this, I would probably question the strength of the bond when using an notch size that is needed for the VCT. With ceramic, the larger notch is not a big deal since they strength of the ceramic tile spans any air gap. The opportunity doesn’t exist for that to be the case with the VCT. Any flex would break down the VCT prematurely.

If I were in your shoes, I would probably buy a tub to new adhesive just to be safe (I come from the overkill department of overkill). That being said, I have a friend who installed VCT in a non-traditional way that I thought “might” cause issues, 12 years later, everything is fine.

I think a small scale test will provide your answer. Apply exactly as you would if it were a VCT adhesive and see how it holds.

Good luck with your project.

I would like to lay a checkerboard floor of 6″ tiles, which means cutting each 12″ in quarters. What is the best way to do this so I have absolute accuracy and a clean edge?

Manalto,

Good luck with this task. If you have ever laid out something like this before, you will understand how much it matters if you are off 1/32nd of an inch on a few pieces. There are cutters made specifically for VCT.

Here is a list: http://amzn.to/2wqOKRx

As you can see, the price varies a great deal. If I were doing this, I would consider buying a more expensive cutter and selling it when I was done. I would probably even consider renting a very expensive one. Many commercial flooring suppliers do have rental operations for this type of thing.

Good luck. Let us know how you make out.

WNYHandyman.com

This is a great article. I am putting VCT tile in my bathroom and then I am planning on doing our kitchen. I wish I would have read this before I started but it will sure help me moving forward.

Adrian,

You can do it. In fact, I did it in a small bathroom at the end of the summer. There is a de-waxing product available but I just scuffed my old surface a little with course sandpaper. Not even sure it was necessary, but the room was small. If I was doing a larger room, I would definitely consider purchasing the proper product to remove the surface wax so that the new glue “bit” a little easier.

Hope this helps. Good luck.

If I accidentally made a couple of narrow gaps between tiles while doing the bathroom, is there something I can put between it to seal it so water doesn’t run the subfloor again? Before I put down the sealer? That’s why I’m redoing it now, and it hasn’t been the most fun ever.

I have just installed the first have of the kitchen floor tiles. After a week I noticed some of my tight fitting tiles now had gaps between them on the outside tiles. Can I heat these tiles to adjust them before continuing the rest of the floor?

Thanks,
Hans

Received a question from a reader today:

We applied a feather finish,applied the 430.came back clear ready to rock and roll.and then we realized that our tile order was not correct. Luckily we didn’t start laying tile.so the glue.since it’ll be a few days to get the correct tile.do we have to start over with the feather finish or can we just re-apply the glue……?any help with this i would be highly thankful.

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RESPONSE:
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The glue should bond to itself very well. I wouldn’t be surprised if it is still tacky in a few days when your correct tile arrives. It may take a little trial and error (get the feel of it) to get the glue down with your notch trowel, but it should adhere well.

Hope this helps.

How informative! Love all the tips! I love to tile, but knew this would be more tricky. I am doing a floor in the laundry room and was desperately trying to find 3-4 orange vinyl VCT tiles, but couldn’t find them ANYWHERE! Will be doing just grey.

Good helpful and practical article. I’ve installed VCT in two homes and have liked it a lot. But I have a problem with nail heads showing up in the tile after a while. I use ring shank nails and make sure they are secure but somehow they show up. I’m about to install VCT again over the current VCT floor but there are nail heads showing in the current floor. How can I fix these flaws in the floor before I put down the new floor? And what kind of fasteners should I use on the new floor?
Thank you for your help. It is much appreciated.
Larry Ekman

I have replaced several tiles of me vct floor and I plan to strip and wax – any product and practice suggestions. your post has the best tips btw!

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